By Phillip Goodman
December 19, 2023
Superb goaltending and impeccable defense were the dominant drivers behind the Reno Ice Raiders' 3-1 and 7-2 wins over the San Diego Super Hornets in San Diego's first ever trip to The Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice Arena.
For the Ice Raiders in net, Justis Gyori on Friday and Justin Sand on Saturday kept San Diego off the scoreboard for the first two periods each night in the series presented by Sierra Sid’s Casino. The Reno offense gave their tenders enough breathing room that the wins were never in doubt.
The first nine minutes of Friday's opener was tight-checking and clean as both teams stayed out of the box and rolled four lines until Julian Herrera was hooked in the slot on a shooting opportunity. With Gyori on the bench and the extra attacker out, Reno sustained the pressure and rebound fell right in front of Julian Herrera on the doorstep for a putback and a 1-0 lead.
On the ensuing sequence, the puck rolled to Gyori who covered it with the glove then took a snow shower from one of the Super Hornets. The Ice Raiders, while clearly heated by the unsportsmanlike conduct of the lone Hornet, kept their cool for the moment since Reno had only the 1-0 lead.
In plays unrelated to that less-than-respectful incident, Reno was able to fight off a two-man disadvantage allowing only three shots on Gyori in over a two-minute span for the first two successful Peterson Wealth Management Penalty Kills of the night.
With 1:17 left in the first, Reno won an offensive zone draw and put on a clinic in sustained pressure and puck possession. For forty seconds, Reno moved the puck around, got two quality shots on net, and saw both point men pinch to hold the zone on failed clears by San Diego. With San Diego scrambling for coverage after Alex Gunnoe carried the puck in deep from the point, Ice Raider call-up Jake Minton found Garrity wide open in the slot for the 2-0 lead going into the intermission.
"I was really happy with the way we came out," said Ice Raiders Head Coach Tim Tookey after the first 20 minutes. "[San Diego] played the same though. They're coming at us pretty good but we played really calm with the puck in our own end. Guys got in open spots and we moved the puck out. We're getting into their zone, we're cycling the puck really well, getting shots on the goal and going for rebounds."
Regarding the snow shower on Gyori that ratcheted up the game's temperature, Tookey added, "There will come a time when someone will have a talk with that guy."
When Roger Hutchinson made that Hornet answer for his transgression, the Hornet shied away and his teammates had to come to his defense. While Hutchison and a Hornet were wrestling on the deck, the main culprit in all the chaos stomped on Hutchison's stick earning him a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
The second period continued to be a parade of players into the penalty box with 17 players and 50 penalty minutes getting assessed to both teams.
As the teams skated 4-on-4 with three minutes left in the second, Alex Gunnoe made a nifty toe drag move around a Super Hornet defenseman and put the puck on a tee for Morgan Ellis to one-time upstairs. Gunnoe's assist was without a doubt the Sierra Sid’s Casino Assist of the Weekend.
With Reno leading 3-0 late in the game, the Super Hornets should have been called for a head contact penalty for a shoulder into Zeph Fägergren's face that sent him to the bench leaking a trail of blood. Instead of a stoppage, play continued and San Diego broke Gyori's 55-minutes of shutout hockey.
Morgan Ellis got the last licks on the Super Hornet that started it all which led to everyone pairing off and packing the penalty boxes.
Gyori, who had shoulder surgery and missed half of the '22-'23 season, stopped 24 of the 25 Super Hornets shots en route to his first home win of this year. Gyori earned Friday's home start after four strong performances on the road the last two months.
"The best revenge is a win," said Gyori who was the calmest player on the ice after the Super Hornet's snow shower play. "The boys have my back. I can focus on my game. They take care of it. I love it."
The disruptions in play and penalty shenanigans somewhat overshadowed that the score could have been far more lopsided than 3-1. Reno put out 84 shot attempts with 47 reaching Super Hornet goalie Jack Walsh. Defensively, Reno was stingy, only allowing 52 attempts by San Diego and blocking 13 of those before they could reach Gyori.
By comparison, Saturday's affair was far less heated after both teams apparently got everything out of their systems the night before.
Moments later, Justin Sand made a critical save on an odd-man rush that would have tied the score. His Lone Wolf's Chop Rodz Save of the Game was one of the 20 saves he would make the rest of the night.
The 1-0 lead for Reno held until five minutes into the second when Jon Sobieski rifled a shot five-hole for a 2-0 lead. From there, the floodgates opened on San Diego.
Sobieski netted his second goal of the period on a one-timer fed to him by Johnny Garrity. Alex Gunnoe carried the puck from his own goal line all the way through the San Diego defense and put in his own rebound for the 4-0 lead. Thirteen seconds later, the hats came flying off the Reno bench for Jon Sobieski when Gunnoe set him up for a one timer and the hat trick. Jake Minton finished a five-goal second period for Reno with a top-shelf Brewer's Cabinet Power Play goal. Reno allowed only seven shots on Sand in the dominant middle stanza.
San Diego broke through on Sand early in the third but needed a two-man advantage to do so. Reno and Minton responded quickly to push the lead back to 7-1. San Diego added one goal too little too late and the Ice Raiders completed the sweep with the 7-2 win.
The Ice Raiders won't suit up again until January 12th and 13th for a road trip to the Breckenridge Vipers. Then the Ice Raiders have two weekends off before hosting the Sin City Kings at Reno Ice on Jan 26th and 27th. Tickets will go on sale the weekend of Jan. 18.
To all the players, staff, and fans: have a safe and happy holiday season! See you in 2024!
Friday's LT Automotive Three Stars of the Game
Justis Gyori (G) - 24 Saves on 25 shots
Alex Gunnoe (D) - 3A, 3 blocked shots
Johnny Garrity (F) - 1G, 1A, +2, 9 Shots
Saturday's LT Automotive Three Stars of the Game
Jon Sobieski (F) - 3G, 7 Shots
Jake Minton (F) - 2G, 1A, 8 Shots
Justin Sand (G) - 20 saves on 22 shots
Friday, 12.15.23 - Game 7: Reno Ice Raiders vs. San Diego Super Hornets Highlights:
Saturday, 12.16.23 - Game 7: Reno Ice Raiders vs. San Diego Super Hornets Highlights: